KURT BUSCH --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus DID YOU EVER THINK YOUR FIRST WIN WOULD COME AT BRISTOL? "I saw Elliott Sadler do it here last year in a semi-Roush car. It's a setup we worked on in Happy Hour, we started it feel come to, but you just don't...
KURT BUSCH --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus
DID YOU EVER THINK YOUR FIRST WIN WOULD COME AT BRISTOL? "I saw Elliott Sadler do it here last year in a semi-Roush car. It's a setup we worked on in Happy Hour, we started it feel come to, but you just don't feel like it's going to be your day at Bristol, you never know what can happen here.. Good pit strategy, worked out great."
JACK ROUSH, car owner-97-Rubbermaid Taurus
"Last year, we didn't manage to put Kurt in a situation which would allow him to do what he had done in the truck program, and that frustrated Kurt greatly, and that frustrated me because I understood his talent. In my heart we had the equipment to do the job. But we didn't get it organized. After the year he had in the truck program, you know, he set all the records on what a rookie could do and might so and finished second in points and won that championship the year before, so last year was a really tough year and when we looked over the winners and said, okay, what can we do to take all the elements we've got and put them together differently so that we can work better. It's just been wonderful."
KURT BUSCH - WAS THAT A TYPICAL SATURDAY NIGHT CELEBRATION? "NASCAR racing is about the fans. This is what we come here to do. We don't necessarily feel as if we've done anything for them just by going around and racing around in circles. To go back and give back to the fans, because they support our sponsors so heavily, to have Sharpie and Rubbermaid involved with our racing program, to give back to the fans, to have them go out there and buy Rubbermaid and Sharpie products, that's what it's all about, that's why we're here, that's why we're racing. I'm here to gain points and work towards that championship at the end of the year that Jimmy Fennig keeps talking about. I keep telling him he's crazy. But now we're fifth in points, working on it steadily, and we'll put our pieces together so we can have more Victory Lane celebrations just like that one. That was just an 'Amen' to the fans, to give back to the fans. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them, for them cheering us every week, giving us the adrenaline to go and there's no other better track in the world to have a celebration of the fans than here at Bristol. It would've worked out better at the Sharpie 500, but, heck, we'll try it again in the fall. It's just something I want to do to give to the fans. I did it at Fontana my last win with the truck series, and it gives a special feeling inside that they're part of you, you're part of them and I'm out here just to win."
YOU AND JIMMY SPENCER TRADED PAINT. HE SAID THERE'S A NEED TO RESPECT THE LEADERS A LITTLE MORE. HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT. HE THINKS HE GOT A RAW DEAL. "Yeah, he would think he got a raw deal. He hasn't won since '94. He's been working just as hard as we have at the beginning of this year. He's got a great ride put underneath him, I've got a great ride underneath me and we're both racing hard to win. At last year Phoenix, he dumped us flat us as he was a lapped car and we were racing in eighth place. So that was in my mind. I kind of set the stage for it. I would've thought as a fan I would've made it tougher on him to pass me, but I think I tried to stage him a little bit and we got back underneath him and we were the ones that ended up in Victory Lane. He was the one that never forgets; I guess we could say that I don't forget what happened at Phoenix. It was good race. That's what we all come here to see. That's what the fans come here to see, and when you're the leader or if you're in second place, if you're dicing for the lead and nobody's won, and he hasn't won in how many years and it was our first victory, I think that that's racing. I think if it would've ended with me that way, on the other side of the coin, I would've figured out what I needed to do next time to be better and not get myself in that position."
WAS THAT A LAST-SECOND DECISION TO STAY OUT THERE INSTEAD OF PITTING, TO PUSH IT AS FAR AS YOU CAN? "The way pit strategy laid itself out, we saw Elliott Sadler win the race here with 150 to go last spring. He stayed out. Goodyear tires last a long while, the Fords seemed to be hooking up on the bottom of the race track, and it just worked out into our favor that we were up in front, we had a great pit stop, came in fourth and went out second behind Junior and it was our turn to race. We knew were going to stay out from 150 on."
YOU JUST MENTIONED "STAGING' JIMMY. CAN YOU EXPLAIN THAT? "I think if you're a fan, you look for a big race for the lead, you don't expect a leader to give it up and have the second-place guy pass him as easily as he passed us. I did slip, he took advantage of it and got underneath us, but it was what I wanted to do. I wanted to race him. I didn't want to just kind of lay over like a puppy and let him take it. I wanted to race him, he got underneath us in four and it developed through the next lap, we raced him on the high side. Coming down the front strip, I gave up and he was going in low so I knew he was going to have a hard time making that turn one corner. And I've seen races here, we've all seen Dale Earnhardt slide back underneath people, we've all seen Mark Martin by being smart and that's what I thought we needed to do. Gave him a little tap just to let him know that we were going to be there, we were going to race him. He ended up sliding up the hill, we got back by him, that's part of racing at Bristol."
YOU'VE WON FOUR TIMES IN THE TRUCK SERIES, BUT WHEN YOU'RE YOUNGER GUYS DREAM OF WINNING AT THE WINSTON CUP LEVEL. TALK A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR EMOTIONS. "That's what you always dream about when you're a racer coming up through the ranks. Racing at the quarter-mile track that I grew up on, it somewhat looked like Bristol. It's banked 24 degrees, quarter-mile dirt and it gave me a little bit of vision of what I used to do back then. And the biggest break of my life came when Jack Roush gave me this opportunity. That's when you know you made it to the big time. But when you make it to the big time, you've got to capitalize on it and it's what every racer dreams about is winning at the Winston Cup level. Winning at the truck level, winning at the Busch level, that's part of growing towards Winston Cup. You want to be the elite, you want to be the best of the best. Heck, we got a week off so we get to enjoy it an extra week."
JIMMY SPENCER'S QUOTE WAS: "I PASSED HIM FAIR AND SQUARE AND HE JUST SMASHED INTO MY BACK BUMPER." WAS THERE CONTACT HERE IN FOUR WHEN HE PASSED YOU, AND DID YOU FEEL THE CONTACT IN TURN TWO WAS ENOUGH TO KNOCK HIM OUT AND LOSE IT OR WAS IT JUST PART OF RACING THROUGH THAT CORNER. "Veterans probably have different opinions that second-year drivers, and we're all into conflict, we all want to write about it, we all want to race it, we all want to race hard to win, and it comes with conflict, it comes with pit strategy, it comes with things that happen in the past. And when we're racing eighth place at Phoenix, trying to salvage a season that we had last year, working on him for five laps, trying to get by him, and he dumps me flat out in turn three, I get drilled by Ryan Newman, almost get pinched in the car, and we threw away a lot of points. That actually backed me out of the top 25 in points. But I don't want to talk about the past. This was racing at Bristol today. We ended up bumping him a little bit, just to rattle his cage. I can't believe he expected to pass me as clean as he did - he did pass me clean - but not for a race to develop afterward. This is racing, this what we're paid to do, this is why we're here, to win races."
WHAT WOULD'VE GONE THROUGH YOUR MIND IF JIMMY SPENCER WOULD'VE GOT A RUN ON YOU AND WAS IN YOUR REAR-VIEW MIRROR? "He'd a tried to rearrange the back bumper, that's for sure. It comes with the territory. I know what I did and I know what he was looking to do. We were just trying to fight for our track position and it all ended up in our favor. But you've got guys like Dale, Jr., I know that we're not the ones that would intimidate people if they saw us in the mirror, but we're working on that. We're working to be competitive every week and we're looking stronger every week. We've got a chance to win almost every race so far, except for Darlington last week, and that's my favorite race track, so it's starting to turn. Jimmy Fennig's experience, and just the whole program with Rubbermaid and Sharpie, getting involved with them, it's all really starting to come together."
JACK ROUSH - LAST YEAR, ONLY MATT KENSETH WAS IN THE TOP 25 WHEN YOU LEFT BRISTOL. NOW ALL YOUR CARS ARE IN THE TOP 10. HOW DOES THAT FEEL? "It feels like 2001 should've been. We've got great drivers, great crew chiefs, we've got great sponsors. We understand the rules and the challenges NASCAR gives and last year we just couldn't get it in spite of the fact that we worked as hard as we had before and everybody is still in place. We just couldn't get it done last year. Last year was our 15th year and I was so blue and so broken hearted I almost cried at the banquet. I just could not stand to think that we had missed the opportunity to do better than we did. Kurt, based on what he did in the truck program and how quickly he adapted, he should've won a race last year and certainly should've been more in contention than he was for the rookie championship. Mark is healthy now, and he's still motivated, and we need to put combinations around him that can do the business. The year before Matt Kenseth was Rookie of the Year and should've had a better second year than he had last year. And of course many people Jeff Burton to be the man last year, the guy in our stable that could make the run. And I didn't manage to get it right for any of them. I'm relieved that the process that we have and our structure and our morals and all the things that wind up holding our world together is working this year, and I don't have to retire. I can keep doing this a while."
KURT BUSCH - JACK MENTIONED EARLIER THE OFFSEASON CHANGES. HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT THOSE CHANGES AT THE TIME, AND WHAT'S BEEN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAST YEAR'S TEAM AND THIS YEAR'S TEAM? "I'll touch on the second part with a perfect example, but what I thought about the changes were, I was a bit mixed at the beginning, trying to dig out of that 31st-place points position. I had no idea which way to go, which route to take. And having Jeff Burton's experience, Jack Roush's guidance, those were the two that developed the change. Burton's just a master of negotiating people into the right position, and obviously he wanted to see the best for the company, and that's what I want to see. I want to see all of us in the top 10 in points, contending for a win each week, and that's what we've developed over the offseason and it really took a while for it to set in, but as soon as we showed up at Daytona, I knew what kind of experience Jimmy Fennig had, and the way our test went there. We went to Vegas and just on and on and on, it's just developed. But a perfect example of how it's helped me, I think I was the first caution here last spring, lap 70. I was in the back fence, all by myself, wrecked, because of the setup that was underneath the car. I didn't know what to change, I didn't know what to ask for. And now that Jimmy Fennig has given me the guidance, I know how to feel the race car-obviously Mark Martin's had success here at Bristol-he's given me that confidence to make changes, and understand the race car so we can go from that DNF to first place. That's how much it's changed." HOW MUCH DOES EXPERIENCE COUNT AT BRISTOL. FIVE YOUNG DRIVERS WERE IN THE TOP 10? "Whether it's the new generation of crew chiefs sorting out track position, whether it's us being lucky, or whether it's just being able to withstand 500 miles at Bristol and being able to put up with the pounding that goes on here. I think the strategy played out for us the best and a lot of people had a lot of good efforts that were put together to get them those finishes, whether we're young, whether we're old, I always shoot to go to the front as best as we can, as calmly as we can, and today it ended up working out in our favor. With pit strategy and the experience level that I have, is limited obviously. I've only run here three times, this is my third trip. Jack Roush told me it takes three times to learn a place, so we were able to grant him that wish today. And the experience that you gain is by watching the TV broadcast, by watching what Fox puts together and understanding different elements about the race track. Today was a day race, it's not a night race, there's a different setup. Just experience that Jimmy Fennig brought to me helped calm my nerves, and with 150 to go it was starting to work out pretty good."
YOU SAID ALL ALONG THAT THE PLAN WAS TO STAY OUT FROM 150 IN, YET IT LOOKED LIKE YOU PUT A FAKE ON JUNIOR. WAS HE THE ONLY CAR THAT YOU THOUGHT COULD CATCH YOU, AND WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN YOU SAW HIM GO INTO THE PITS? "We were racing him hard. I believe we took the green, the first time we came out of the pits and lapped cars got in my way, I was stuck behind 'em, terrible re-start on my part, ended up having a quick caution, we got back up behind him, got a great restart, we were right behind him. I think we checked out right in front of the third-place guy and the way it developed was we were the best car on lap 30. We would start coming to, we could run a half a tenth quicker, we reeled in. Once you catch a car, it's a different story, obviously, so it was going to be tough to get by him. Just start moving around a little bit, start shaking the mirror around, which is his mirror, and make him try to do different things to where he'll flip a little bit coming off the corner, whether it's four, two, it just depends. You have to find his weak spot, I found it and were able to catch up to him. But then the caution came out, he pitted, gave us the lead and it was just a blessing in disguise."
WHAT ABOUT THE FAKE TO COME INTO THE PITS? "That was clever. I got that from Greg Biffle. We always used to do that in the truck series together because pit strategy with the truck series was you had to take two tires at a time. You never knew when people were going to come in. I didn't know if I faked him or not, I just thought I'd throw it out there on the table. We'll see what he has to say about it."
A LOT HAS BEEN MADE OF THE EMOTIONS WE'VE SEEN AT BRISTOL, BUT IT SEEMS LIKE YOU GUYS ENJOY IT AND THE FANS OBVIOUSLY LIKE IT. IS THIS THE NATURE OF THE SPORT? "You could say this is where developed, on the short tracks, back in the early '60s, '70s, races were won by laps or so. Now races are won by tenths. This is the tight competition that Winston Cup provides, and it's what we all strive for, to be the best. To be the best for a week, to come back next week, gather some more points, but it's just an awesome feeling, to come together and to win at Bristol, to have a 150,00 fans screaming around you, it's the best feeling in the world."
JACK ROUSH - ARE YOU A LITTLE SURPRISED ABOUT YOUR YOUNG GUYS COMING OUT SO QUICK THIS YEAR? IS IT A VALIDATION FOR YOUR METHOD FOR FINDING AND DEVELOPING TALENT? I guess yes to both would be the short answer. Jeff Burton and Frankie Stoddard have a program that's really solid. They've won at many of the race tracks. They've had a car strategy and a setup strategy that was less than modified than the others and I really thought that Jeff would provide the direction early on, but Matt has been, Matt, by winning first and the way he's run in terms of his setups, has really been more on the mark. There's been less hysteria, they've gotten to their race setups sooner than anybody else had. Of course, Jimmy and Kurt, you look and say, wow, where did those guys come from? And I find that Ben Leslie, Mark's crew chief, and Frankie Stoddard, Jeff's crew chief, have spent more time in Kurt's and Matt's trailer figuring out what they were doing so far than it has been the other way around. That has been a surprise. The mix of having two experienced guys with a lot of depth and two motivated new guys, young guys, that don't have as many paradigms to break, that look and adapt quicker, is really a great mix. There's been, I'm sure, if Kurt related each of the races, he's drawn some strength from Jeff and from Mark and from the things that they've traditionally done, and at the same time, some of Kurt's truck experience that I wouldn't have put much stock in a year ago, has come to bear, and of course Matt's experience, not only with the Winston Cup car but the things he was doing with his Busch car have come to bear as well. It's a great mix of having all those experience variance in one program. Of course the other thing is these guys all respect and like one another. Do you have any idea how hard it is or how lucky I am to have a situation where the guys all approve of one another and they respect one another and they all want one another to be successful? It's special right now."
KURT'S WINNING MOVE SHOWED PATIENCE AND AGGRESSIVENESS. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU'VE DEVELOPED IN KURT OR DID HE ALWAYS HAVE THAT? "As far as Kurt's concerned, I see so much of his dad in him. He reads like a mirror. You talked to his dad and then you talk to Kurt on a subject and you'll find the reflection is there. Kurt has, in addition to working with his dad and all the things showed him and taught him about race cars and racing, he also had a great year with Greg Biffle, and you can't underestimate the impact of Kurt run with Greg with the year that they had in the truck program. Kurt said something at Dover, and I won't mention the other driver's name, but, there was a driver he was racing real hard with and the guy was offended that late in the race that he beat him because the other driver had led most of the laps, and what Kurt said what showed from his father and from Greg as well, he said, 'Well, if I've got a faster car, I'm going to pass him. He might as well understand that.' I was not at all surprised that Kurt came back around. We'd had a little bit of conversation with him about being careful with his tires, and was assured that he hadn't used his tires up and he had something at the end. I would've been much more surprised if he hadn't been able to make a move then the move that he made."
KURT BUSCH - THERE WAS A TIME WHEN FOUR TIRES WAS THE CALL AT BRISTOL. HAS RACING CHANGED BECAUSE OF THE NEW TIRE? "Well, I think we're the second driver in a row - I don't know where Tony Stewart started in the fall - but, in the spring race, for a driver to win from the back straightaway. With the new pit road rules, it surely made the front to back equal. The equality involved there allowed us the option to take four tires everytime, we didn't take two tires. Some people go for track position with those two tires, but for us today when you have a shot to win the race, taking for was the optimum choice. And it has changed racing and that's what we've seen in the past with people staying out and guarding their track position because the Winston Cup competition level is so high, it's very difficult to pass. You can have a tenth to a tenth-and-half quicker car, but if you don't have track position you're not going to be able to get by him and it just takes a lot more patience to understand the new tire rule. What I mean by the new tire rule is just that the harder tire keeps coming out to keep us away from running the softer springs, to keep the racing more competitive."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR SECOND YEAR. HAVE YOU MADE AN EFFORT TO BE MORE AGGRESSIVE? "It's been the same old Kurt Busch. When you're out there as a rookie, you're looking for guidance, you're looking for experience and it's tough to go and get it when you don't know what to expect. And I think what's been the biggest impact has been having a second year now as of the beginning of this year to work on things that I did wrong last year. You have to learn from your mistakes and Jack gave me a nice quote: 'As long as you're not making the same mistake twice, I'll let you keep making them.' And we made quite a bit on the rookie season. We had chances to win, we didn't. We had bad cars and we made them worse, and we had good cars and we made them better. We learned from the mistakes, and it's the same driver driving the race car, just with more experience, more depth, and obviously Jimmy Fencing and the whole crew have added to my comfort level to go out there and do my best."
JACK ROUSH - "I'd never been prouder of a young program, of a young driver, as I sit here with Kurt today. He has adapted quicker to all the things presented to him in the racing that I've been involved with him and anybody I've ever worked with. I look forward to providing equipment and people to develop his career and to be as good as anybody's ever been at this business, in terms of the things that he can achieve. I believe he's got that potential if I can do my part."